Saturday, April 11, marks the conclusion to the 2014-15 regular season. Yet, much remains to be decided in the frantic run to the finish line, including playoff positioning and numerous individual accomplishments and milestones. To celebrate the countdown to the end of the season and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 15, NHL.com will provide a piece of playoff-related content each day.
There are only two games on the NHL schedule Friday night, but one will have a big impact on potential matchups for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
The Pittsburgh Penguins welcome the New York Islanders to Consol Energy Center, and awin would secure a playoff berth for the Penguins. Pittsburgh has made the postseason every year since 2006-07, which is the second-longest streak in the NHL behind the Detroit Red Wings (24 years).
The Penguins have two games remaining, including a Saturday game against the Buffalo Sabres. If they secure two points from those two games, they are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. If they do not, they will need help from either the Tampa Bay Lightning (against the Boston Bruins) or the Philadelphia Flyers (against the Ottawa Senators) on Saturday.
The Islanders qualified for the playoffs Thursday night when the Boston Bruins lost to the Florida Panthers. They are currently two points ahead of the Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
A win against Pittsburgh would ensure New York finishes at least third and set up an Eastern Conference First Round matchup with the Washington Capitals. The Islanders would enter the final day of the season one point behind the Capitals for second place in the Metro if they defeat the Penguins.
Should the Penguins prevail against the Islanders, they would be tied at 98 points with one game to play. If Pittsburgh wins in regulation or overtime, the two teams would each have 39 non-shootout wins.
In the other game Friday, a regulation loss would guarantee the Sabres finish in 30th place in the NHL standings. They are two points behind the Arizona Coyotes, who have one game remaining. Whichever team finishes last will have the best odds of landing the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and will be guaranteed a top-two selection.
Here's a closer look at the action Friday:
New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m., NHL-US, SN, TVA2, MSG+, ROOT)
Buffalo Sabres at Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m., MSG-B, BELL TV, FS-O)
The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots are filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It is possible for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends just three.
Seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second-fewest points.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. There is no reseeding as the tournament moves to the second round and winners of that series advance to the conference championship series and the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final.